Villarreal enjoyed a good season to some extent under their coach Javier Calleja before La Liga was unfortunately suspended and put on hold along with the rest of the world. One of the most important and effective players in their squad this season is Gerard Moreno – a player who can play both as a striker and right-winger in his team’s tactics.
Moreno, who started his career at Villarreal U19s 10 years ago, moved to the first team in 2013 but shortly after that, he didn’t find a proper place with Marcelino Toral’s system and then decided to go to Espanyol, eventually becoming one of the most important players there.
In this tactical analysis, we will explain the return of Gerard Moreno who came back to the Yellow Submarine at the beginning of last season and delivered great performances this campaign.
Style of play
Gerard Moreno is always present in whichever formation Calleja chooses. In the 4-4-2 system, the coach makes him a second striker who can play the “free man” role in the attacking phase.
Moreno has very intelligent movement, often operating between the lines either with vertical or horizontal runs, and he can advance through the half-spaces from where Villarreal often look to threaten the opposition.
Here we can see Moreno behind another striker Toko Ekambi, as a second forward, with the ball on the right flank with the right-back Mario Gaspar who is preparing to swap sides with a long ball over to the left side.
As soon as Villarreal start progressing the ball, Moreno looks to advance into the danger zones himself, often having great awareness to recognise the free pockets of space and exploit them perfectly.
Then he goes to the free space and receives the ball, quickly moving it until he gets a chance to shoot on target. This particular setup seems to work well with Villarreal and keeping Moreno in a striker partnership up front and giving him more freedom seems to be the way to go for them.
Javier Calleja, who came last season to coach Villarreal after Luis Garcia was sacked, however, used to swap between formations, deploying both the 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 system too, which also brought some changes to the role and tactics of Moreno.
In both of those systems, Moreno plays as a right-winger and it’s very suitable for his strengths because he is great at cutting inside and then unleashing shots against the opponent’s goal.
Here Gerard Moreno received the ball on the right flank during Villarreal’s attack, and the first thought was to cut inside and shoot. And that’s exactly what happened and he even scored the goal.
When Moreno plays on the wing, he always thinks about where and how to pass the ball. Most of the time, however, a simple pass will do and he doesn’t try to make it risky since 84.9% of his passes seem to be simple passes during the games he play.
In this situation, we see that Moreno had many choices to pass but he decided to pass to Moi Gomes in “zone 14” to shoot on target, although he could’ve shot or sent a cross himself.
Although that wasn’t necessarily the simplest solution in this case, it was the one that could yield them the most promising opportunity so he still went for it.
Moreno is one of the most effective players in La Liga when it comes to importance to his team as he contributed to 26% of Villarreal goals this season.
He played 25 matches with Villarreal this season in the Spanish league, scoring 11 goals and assisting a further four to his teammates.
But he is also aggressive in his approach and can hunt for the ball in the opposition’s half to force a quick turnover and a deadly transition – this season he averages 2.85 interceptions per game with Villarreal.
Even though this is a defensive trait by nature, the Yellow Submarine use it in an offensive manner, pushing Moreno higher up the pitch so that he is closer to the opposition’s goal once the ball gets stolen.
Here we can see Moreno intercept Sergio Ramos’ pass during the build-up, and then leads the counter-attack for his team.
This happens quite often, as we’ve also seen from the number of interceptions he makes per game, but also because Villarreal are a team that presses quite often and does it with great success.
Moreno was not satisfied with passing the ball to a teammate so he kept running until he reached an area where he could pick up the “second ball” and have a go himself. This shows the player’s aggressive vertical movement in the middle of the opponent’s box and ultimately enables him to score against Real Madrid.
Interestingly enough, he does not attempt a high volume of shots per game, only registering 2.91 per 90 minutes in 2019 with 39.6% of them hitting the target. Yet he is quite good in isolated scenarios and 1 v 1 duels, and he can boast an impressive stat of 4.57 dribbles per game with a 56.3% success rate.
Taking the right position in the final third made him have an expected goals value of 0.46 (xG) per game and 1.42 shot assists per 90 minutes as well.
In this situation, we can see the ball with Santi Cazorla at the left wing and Moreno going through Deportivo Alaves’ area to score the goal. This shows us that he has great awareness of his surroundings and knows how to best position himself to threaten the opposition.
Moreno is also very accurate with long balls, which can be a surprise when watching his performances, as 68.2% of those passes hit their intended targets.
Moreno’s offensive capabilities do not stop at his ability to score or shoot, but he can create goals as well. He has the second biggest xA value after Cazorla, reaching 4.52 with three total assists in 2019/20.
Gerard’s simple thinking makes him directly influence his team’s offensive ability, looking for space, whether to pass it or even keep the ball and go in an individual position in front of opponents’ defenders. He’s been able to play key passes during the matches that his team has played so far, where he has a 0.79 ratio per game.
Villarreal’s playing style is certainly a great contributor to Moreno’s abilities, both when the team owns the ball and is fluent in positioning as a solution to receiving the ball. when Villarreal doesn’t have the ball, we will see Moreno’s role through this analysis in defensive positioning, although there are some skills that he can improve to become more complete between the offensive and defensive parts.
Skills to be improved
If we talk about the skills to be improved in Moreno’s performances this season with Villarreal, the first of which will have to be his crossing. Moreno has a 38.7% accuracy in crosses in 2019/20, which is not necessarily that bad but can certainly be improved upon.
This may be because he usually chooses the most difficult or the most aesthetic option, or he is likely to be located on the right side significantly with a preference for playing with his left foot.
Here we can see that he got rid of the left-back with great skill, made him attack the space on the edge of the Deportivo penalty area, but decided to play the ball against the left foot, which ruined it.
Besides that, Moreno must work on the defensive support of his team, as he succeeds in only 1.09 1 v 1 duels per game and this could pose a problem for Villarreal. Not only does this stop here, but he loses the ball 12.87 times per game in 2019/20, however, given that he is a striker that gives an explanation to that particular phenomenon.
Notice here is the area where he loses the ball and is by more than half in the middle of the field, and this explains to us where Gerard defends.
One of the points that can be improved in Moreno’s performance is winning the aerial duels, as he only wins by 42.9%. Perhaps this is due to the timing he chooses to dock on the ball, Moreno has the impulsivity to do so, but the correct timing must be chosen. But this doesn’t mean that Gerard does not contribute to the defence, rather he needs to develop in these matters with coach Javier.
Gerard Moreno is an outstanding player with great offensive capabilities, which we have tried to explain in this scout report by showing some of the attributes he possesses, along with what can be improved.
Moreno is still a class striker who can play in the top teams, as he fits in the way big teams tend to play, both inside and outside of Spain, bearing in mind that he is 27 years old, and has abilities to return to the national team of Spain with former Barcelona man Luis Enrique.